Coronavirus: Recovery will take ‘cross-border coordination’

signpostsImage copyright Derick Hudson

Two major business groups have written to the governments in Dublin and Belfast to urge co-ordination in the recovery from coronavirus.

The CBI and its Irish equivalent, Ibec, have said an economic reboot will need “the highest level of co-operation, co-ordination and joined-up thinking”.

It comes as the number of Covid-related deaths in NI rises by nine to 338.

In the Republic of Ireland, 31 more deaths were announced, with the total number there now standing at 1,190.

The figure in Northern Ireland relates mainly to hospital deaths so is likely to rise.

In their letter, the CBI and Ibec highlight the nature of integrated supply chains across the border and the Irish Sea.

It stops short of calling for a synchronised exit from the lockdown.

There have been political differences at Stormont on the level to which an all-island approach should be taken to coronavirus.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill has said an all-island approach to public health is practical.

Health Minister Robin Swann has said the decision to exit the lockdown will take account of the all-island situation, but will be based on “the science that is applicable to Northern Ireland”.

Image copyright Getty Images

‘Parallel conversations’

The CBI/Ibec letter says it is in everyone’s interests to have experts on both sides of the border regularly communicating on their respective plans for economic revival and recovery, including for all-island business and cross-border employment.

They also recommend that “it would be helpful and worthwhile for parallel conversations to take place between the two islands, with the North South Ministerial Council, along with the British-Irish Council, providing appropriate formal frameworks for such discussions”.

Many businesses on both sides of the border want joined-up thinking on when the lockdown is eased.

In other developments on Thursday:

Across the UK there have been 26,097 confirmed Covid-linked deaths.

Official UK figures include deaths in the community, such as in care homes, for the first time.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will chair a cabinet meeting on Thursday and then lead the daily coronavirus briefing for the first time since his return to work.

No 10 says the PM, whose fiancée gave birth on Wednesday, will update the UK on the “fight against this disease and the steps we are taking to defeat it”.

But he is not expected to give the clarity many people would like on lifting lockdown restrictions.

Executive ministers are engaged in discussions about some lockdown restrictions that could be lifted in Northern Ireland.

Last week, they agreed cemeteries could reopen on a controlled basis.

Image caption Edwin Poots said there should be a graduated response to lifting lockdown restrictions

On Wednesday Environment Minister Edwin Poots suggested garden centres should be allowed to reopen, if they can manage social distancing.

Mr Poots said the centres were normally large facilities which had a limited number of people present.

He also suggested there could be a phased reopening of some churches that can adhere to social distancing.

But the UK government has said medical advice showed reopening garden centres could risk public health.